Sector overview. More than 48% of the country's people live in rural areas and depend on irrigated agriculture for their livelihood. To improve rural living standards, the government developed the updated Welfare Improvement Strategy for 2012- 2015 in 2013 and launched the Integrated Rural Development Program in 2011. Enhancing the productivity and sustainability of irrigated agriculture which covers 4.3 million ha is a central theme of both strategies. Improving irrigation and drainage (I&D) is critical to better agriculture productivity and competitiveness, and to sound environmental management.
The major challenges in the irrigated agriculture sector include insufficient investment. Other challenges include (i) reduced agricultural productivity due to low water-use efficiency; (ii) deteriorating system and on-farm infrastructure that has outlived its economic life; (iii) reliance on pump irrigation which covers 65% of the irrigated area and consumes 20% of the country's electricity; (iv) low energy efficiency at pump stations, which are of out-dated designs and are in a state of disrepair; (v) poor water management practices at almost every level of the irrigation system; and (vi) high climate sensitivity. Although production is declining, cotton remains a major agricultural crop. Adherence to international core labor standards is a concern; the government is cooperating with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to address the situation.
Amu Bukhara Irrigation System Authority overview. Population growth of 1.7% a year in the ABIS command area will have a potentially significant impact on the availability of water. About 6,500 farmers depended on agricultural activities in the command area in 2011, with support from 145 water consumers' associations (WCAs). The ABIS intake channel from the Amu Darya River and about 22 kilometers (km) of the 385-km main canal from the intake channel are located in neighboring Turkmenistan. O&M of these sections is carried out by the MAWR under a bilateral agreement between the two countries. The ABIS also provides domestic water supply for an estimated 725,000 people in its command areas. Cotton cultivation has gradually declined in the command area since 1990 due to an increase of winter wheat and more diversified cropping.
The ABIS was commissioned in 1965, and its main pump stations covering 250,000 ha have far exceeded their design life spans. The system's canals are in poor condition. The supply of irrigation water has become more unreliable due to several major failures of ABIS pumping equipment. Continued breakdowns leading to future declines in pumping capacity seem likely. Expenditures on O&M have been high (SUM154 billion, including electricity costs of SUM122 billion, in 2011). Another factor in the declining water supplies has been the ABIS's inadequate regulatory structures and its inefficient water supply operations and management. This has resulted in low conveyance efficiency, which in turn pose a serious threat to agricultural production and to the livelihood of local communities. The aging, energy-inefficient pump stations are also consuming overly large amounts of electricity equivalent to about 60% of total energy consumption in Bukhara Province and their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2011 are estimated to be equivalent to 758,000 -935,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Land quality in the ABIS command area is deteriorating, with about 12% of land in the Bukhara Province considered unsuitable for agriculture. This is mainly due to salinity, attributed to overuse of irrigation water under arid climatic and poor drainage conditions, which leads to salt accumulation in the soil.
Climate change impacts. Climate change is expected to affect the ABIS in several ways. The average demand for crop water is likely to increase by about 9% by 2050. Climate change alone will result in a decrease in average Amu Darya River flow from the current 38 cubic kilometers per year to an estimated 22- 28 cubic kilometers per year, and the year-to-year variability of its flow is expected to increase from its historic range of 31% -34% to 36%- 44% in 2050. More frequent water deficits will have the potential in some years to pose serious irrigation problems by 2050.
The project is consistent with the priorities of the ADB's country partnership strategy for 2012- 2016, which recommends that ADB provide new assistance for rehabilitation of major irrigation systems to be more energy-efficient and climate-resilient. The strategy also recommends ADB's support to the improvements in climate-adaptive on-farm water management and the productivity of water resources.
The government has requested co-financing of up to $100 million from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.